Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. President Donald Trump signs a series of executive orders designed to clean up the mess in the federal government, those benefitting most from said mess file numerous lawsuits and a judge is found to block the executive orders. This time it was the EOs regarding federal unions, the difficulty encountered in trying to fire substandard (or even criminal) workers, and abuses of taxpayer dollars by the unions. Obviously, the unions didn’t care for those reforms at all so they took their case to court and found a judge in the District Court for the District of Columbia who was sympathetic to their cause. But when you see the details of her ruling you’ll see that she’s standing on shakey ground to say the least. (Government Executive)
U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson late Friday night struck down most provisions of the Trump administration’s controversial workforce executive orders, concluding that they conflicted with the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act.
Jackson found that the three executive orders, which seek to make it easier to fire federal workers and significantly reduce how unions can collectively bargain and represent employees, disregard Congress’ conclusion that good-faith labor-management negotiations are “in the public interest.”
“As to the merits of the unions’ contentions, while past precedents and pertinent statutory language indicate that the president has the authority to issue executive orders that carry the force of law with respect to federal labor relations, it is undisputed that no such orders can operate to eviscerate the right to bargain collectively as envisioned in the [statute],” Jackson wrote. “In this Court’s view, the challenged provisions of the executive orders at issue have that cumulative effect.”
Before getting to the details of this highly questionable ruling, we should first note that the judge in the case is Ketanji Brown Jackson. She’s an Obama appointee who has been on the fast track in progressive politics, having been interviewed for further advancement to the Supreme Court by Obama after only spending a handful of years at the District Court. Earlier, Obama had appointed her to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Prior to that, she was a clerk for Stephen Breyer.
In her ruling, Judge Jackson concedes that the President has the authority to issue executive orders covering federal labor relations. But she then declares the three executive orders have a “cumulative effect” of “eviscerating the right to collective bargaining.” She went on to tie this to a supposed breach of the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act, saying that the executive orders amounted to instructions for the unions to collectively “bargain in bad faith.”
The only problem is that none of the three executive orders have anything to do with the collective bargaining process. The unions are still just as free to communicate with their members and sit down and bargain with management at the appointed times. What the EOs did was cut down the seemingly endless amount of time that delinquent workers could hang onto their jobs while putting management through a series of dance steps that frequently stretch on for years. The changes streamlined the bargaining process and stopped the unions from having their representatives doing union business (full time in thousands of cases) while collecting taxpayer-funded paychecks and using government offices and resources. The unions are still free to perform all those functions. They simply need to pay the salaries of their officers and find their own office space.
None of these things impact the ability of the unions to negotiate in good faith. Judge Jackson appears to be grasping for a penumbra (as in Roe v Wade) to stitch something together out of thin air. Hopefully this case can be quickly appealed and sent up the chain for a clearer response.